August Plug-In Electric Car Sales: Volt Surges, Leaf Static

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2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

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While car sales often lag during August, when family vacations take priority, the Chevrolet Volt proved an exception to the rule last month.

During August, 2,831 of Chevy's range-extended electric car found buyers--along with 685 Nissan Leaf battery electric cars.

The third high-volume plug-in car on sale in the U.S. is the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, for which sales will be reported later today.

Following a grim year of adverse press, the Volt seems to be finding its stride. Last month, 1,849 Volts were sold, and this month's sales bring the Volt's 2012 total to 13,497.

GM still plans to suspend Volt production at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant to match supply to sales, and add tooling to assemble the 2014 Chevrolet Impala there.

But at least for the moment, it appears that Volt sales have surged to new heights. This month's total of 2,831 is the highest-ever monthly volume for the Volt since it went on sale In December 2010.

The Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, seems stuck around sales levels of 500 to 750 a month. August deliveries rose substantially versus a July total of 395, but total year-to-date sales of 4,228 are just one-third of the Volt total.

And Toyota's plug-in Prius, which benefits from the reputation of the world's first and highest-selling hybrid vehicle, looks to be settling in at sales of perhaps 750 a month.

Last month, Toyota sold 1,047 Prius Plug-In Hybrid models, bringing the year's total to 6,082. That's more than the Leaf's total, making the plug-in Prius the second best-selling plug-in car in the U.S.

Sales of the Ford Focus Electric, the battery electric version of the compact hatchback, totaled 34--bringing the yearly total to 169 (out of 993 built to date).

The numbers for the Mitsubishi i electric minicar continue to be low: 37 sold in August, for a total of 403 during the 2012 calendar year.

And rounding off the low-volume plug-in vehicles, the 2013 Honda Fit EV logged deliveries of 9 units in August. That's a slight increase over the 7 that were leased in July--Honda is only leasing the electric Fit, not selling it outright--but it won't move the needle overall.

Among other makers of plug-in electric cars, Coda Automotive, Fisker Automotive, and Tesla Motors refuse to report monthly sales totals.

Last year, U.S. buyers took delivery of 17,000-plus plug-in vehicles. August's sales numbers continue to support the notion that this year's sales will be about double that total, perhaps slightly higher.

The final total likely depends at least party on how many Tesla Model S deliveries the Silicon Valley startup can manage by December 31.


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Comments (7)
  1. Last time GM "suspended" production of the Volt, dealers in CA had a huge "shortage". I sure hope GM plans it better this time around... With 1/3 of the Volt sold in CA, I wouldn't be surprised that it will have some kind of shortage again.

    Volt is definetly getting more popular. I used to see a Volt maybe once a day. Now, I frequently see them on the road. Almost several per day. Today I went out to lunch, saw a Viridian Blue one in the parking lot and Pearl White one on the hwy.

  2. I think most potential Leaf buyers are holding out for the 2013 model.

  3. You have to wonder if this is a clear vindication of the EREV concept over the BEV or plug-in hybrid. Guess it is still early, but the EREV is way out if front for the moment. I wouldn't have predicted this one.

  4. John, good question... I'd say it validates the short-term market decision by GM because too many consumers have range anxiety to have just an EV like the LEAF, but long term is a different matter, of course. I think the EREV is a better choice for many now, but even me with a Volt, I'd prefer to be in a pure EV when my Volt lease ends in 2015. But we'll see what's available then and at what cost and range, of course.

    I did think the Volt would outsell the LEAF, but by nowhere near the margin we're seeing now. The lower Volt lease prices and car pool lane have made a difference, it seems.

  5. That is a result of the existing infrastructure condition, not the technology or the car itself...

    Just the other article by Nikki described how a Tesla took 12 days to complete the loop between SEA and SF. That normally take 3-4 days. Most of that infrastures are depending on RV parks. (outside I-5)

    EREV alone with BEV will push for the demand on infrastructure. So, it is a good thing.

    With that said, I bet if Tesla can come out with a sub $35k sedan that performans way better than the Volt and 150-200 miles range, it will sell even better than the Volt...

  6. Despite the limited e-range, I really thought that plug-in hybrids were going to lead the sales volume. Of course it does not help that Toyota priced the PiP ambitiously. Really hard to see $8000 more in value for the PiP versus the standard Prius.

  7. Volt is the bridge to pure EV's for the range anxiety...


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